Hundreds of jobs facing the axe at Durham County Council

Coun Simon Henig.

Coun Simon Henig.

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Up to 400 jobs could be axed as the region's largest council tries to balance its book.

Durham County Council is looking to save £290million by 2020 in the face of cuts to funding from central Government.

The council will not receive its financial settlement from Whitehall until mid-December but a budget planning paper which will go before the authority’s Cabinet next week sets out a four-year plan which will see continued consultation with the public on spending priorities and the impact of proposed changes.

But bosses are warning continuing austerity will have a further impact on jobs.

In 2010, the council announced 1,950 jobs cuts in the face of a £123million budget reduction.

Now bosses say they may have to slash the number of posts by a further 400.

The freezing of vacant posts and redeployment – as well as skills training and the introduction of more efficient ways of working - will be used to reduce the impact.

Council leader Coun Simon Henig said: "We recognise our staff are our biggest asset, which is why we have strived so hard to protect as many jobs as possible, while making greater cuts to management and support costs.

"Sadly, like many public sector organisations, we may have to reduce our workforce further to prioritise spending on services wherever we can.

"Again, we will delete vacant posts and use redeployment to minimise the impact."

Final decisions will be made on 74 savings proposals by Cabinet and Full Council in February.

Alongside these measures continuing efforts will be made to highlight and support the ‘Durham Ask’, a programme which sees the council support communities and the

voluntary sector to take over some council buildings and services.

"We have done our best to protect frontline services and to respond to the priorities set by the public and we are committed to maintaining this approach," said Coun Henig.

"Continuing spending cuts on this scale inevitably mean making tremendously difficult decisions including changes to services, altering how we deliver those services and reducing our own costs at the same time.

"As we manage this we will use a potential further £25million in reserves to mitigate the impact on frontline services as best we can.

"We are also committed to ongoing consultation with residents so that we understand how proposed changes may affect people and we will pay special attention to those who are

most vulnerable as well as people living in rural more remote areas."

The council’s financial planning is based on a two per cent increase in council tax over the next four years.

Residents can have their say on the plans via a second phase of consultation, starting on December 16 and running until January 12, 2016.

As well as an online option at www.durham.gov.uk/haveyoursay there will be three special events:

December 16 – St Johns RC, Bishop Auckland 6pm – 7.30pm; December 17– Shotton Hall, Peterlee, 1pm – 2.30pm; December 17 – County Hall, Durham 6pm – 7.30pm

The full Cabinet report can be viewed at http://democracy.durham.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=154&MId=7926&Ver=4